Obituary: The Right Rev Mgr Thomas Hughes

THOMAS HUGHES was a man of the people. A parish priest first and a member of the Catholic hierarchy second, his teaching was eloquent, down to earth, and clear. While he will be best remembered by his flock for the pastoral care he showed them, it is for his patient overseeing of the construction of Clifton Cathedral, in Bristol, that his diocese has cause to be thankful for his 60 years of service.

Following the Reformation, it was not until the political emancipation of 1829 that English Catholics were able openly to construct a church in Bristol. Work began in 1834 but the site, like many hillside areas of the rapidly expanding city, proved treacherous, and the original design, for a grandiose Victorian edifice, was abandoned.

In 1846, the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Ullathorne, raised a fund to roof the half-finished building. A timber structure based on the principles of inverted ship construction was added and the church was formally opened in September 1848. With the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy in England by Pope Pius IX two years later, Clifton became an Episcopal See, and the Church of the Twelve Apostles became the pro-cathedral until such time as a cathedral proper could be constructed.

It was to this pro-cathedral that Thomas Hughes, a 23-year-old farmer's son from Co Kilkenny, came to be ordained in 1939. With three of his brothers already priests, Hughes had studied at Prior Park College in Bath and later at the College of St Sulpice in Paris. He served his curacies in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, and at the pro-cathedral. Subsequently he was a parish priest in both Bristol and Bath before being appointed parish priest of the pro-cathedral and Vicar General of the Clifton Diocese in 1962.

Although there was much work to be done in the diocese - particularly as the bishop, Bishop Rudderham, was heavily involved in the Second Vatican Council - Hughes maintained that his first priority was to the parishioners of the pro-cathedral in the Georgian quarter of Bristol. His vision for a suitable building to be the centre of diocesan worship was shared by his colleagues and in August 1965 architects from the Percy Thomas Partnership were commissioned to undertake the design and construction of a new cathedral.

The Council's decree on liturgical worship helped to focus attention at the embryonic Clifton Cathedral on the participation by all the people with the bishop and their priests in the celebration of the Eucharist. The principal requirement was therefore to provide a space where a congregation of 1,000 could be grouped closely around the altar so that they should feel and be a part of the celebration of the mass.

The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Rudderham in September 1970 and work was completed on time and on budget at an overall cost, including adjacent clergy house and offices, of pounds 800,000. This was in no small part due to Hughes's inspired stewardship. The cathedral was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul in the presence of the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Heenan, on 29 June 1973, the feast of those two Apostles. On the same day came news that Hughes was to be honoured for his work by Pope Paul VI with the title Protonotary Apostolic.

The cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Clifton which covers the regions of North Somerset, Bath, North and South Gloucester, Wiltshire, South Somerset, and Bristol. More than 130,000 Catholics look to it not so much as an architectural monument, but as a symbol and focus for the unity of the church. From the start Hughes ensured the cathedral gained an international reputation for the celebration of the liturgy. The building is also regularly used for public concerts, continuing the centuries-old tradition of the Church's patronage of the arts.

Following heart surgery by Professor Magdi Yacoub, Hughes retired in 1981 to St Angela's Convent in Bristol, from where he kept in touch with his many friends. He continued to work throughout the diocese, preaching, teaching and leading days of prayer. He was the first person to be buried in the grounds of the new cathedral.

Thomas John Hughes, priest: born Johnstown, Co Kilkenny 19 July 1915; ordained priest 1939; Vicar General, Diocese of Clifton 1962-81; Protonotary Apostolic 1973; died Bristol 1 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk